Will £289m government investment in BBC World Service address misinformation?

The BBC World Service will launch 11 new language services as part of its biggest expansion “since the 1940s”, the corporation has announced. This move will not only help spread information, but fight misinformation.

Did you know that Pope Francis endorsed Donald Trump’s presidential candidacy? He did according to the most popular ‘news’ article on social media before the election.

As “post-truth” was named the Oxford English Dictionary’s word of the year, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was recently forced to defend the social network against claims that false news articles shared by users influenced the US election on November 8th. False stories such as Pope Francis endorsing Donald Trump (which has since been deleted), and Hillary Clinton selling weapons to ISIS, received more shares, likes and comments than articles from established institutions such as Washington Post’s investigation into Trump’s history of alleged corruption.

The BBC announced on Wednesday that World Service will launch 11 new language services in 2017, bringing the total number of languages to 40. The expansion of World Service, with its reputation and trustworthiness, will help to combat the growing risk posed by deliberate misinformation. Those new languages, all of which are African or Asian, will be Afaan Oromo, Amharic, Gujarati, Igbo, Korean, Marathi, Pidgin, Punjabi, Telugu, Tigrinya, and Yoruba.

The BBC World Service is already the world’s largest international broadcaster, with a weekly audience of 300 million across TV, radio and online platforms. World Service broadcasts news, speech, and discussions across the world.

The recent announcement that it will increase World Service’s language provision also underscores the importance of the audience receiving information in their first language to avoid confusion and misinterpretation. The best example being World Service in Nigeria: where previously only programs in English and Hausa were broadcast, the services will now include Igbo, Yoruba, and even Pidgin.

Wednesday’s announcement also included increased regional programming from BBC Arabic, extended Russian news bulletins localised for surrounding countries, and radio broadcasts on the Korean Peninsula. The latter has already been cited as a potential source of controversy, as the broadcasts are likely to be receivable in North Korea, where news and information is strictly controlled. This move is part of World Service’s aim to reach 500 million people worldwide by the BBC’s centenary in 2022, and funded by a £289m funding boost from the UK government that was announced in 2015.

Today Translations welcomes the expansion of language provision and the campaign to increase World Service’s global audience. The BBC World Service is a trusted institution, with an unrivalled history and global reach. Its reputation for evidence based reporting is ever more important in the age of mass social media and myriad news channels.